As kick-off between Manchester City and Sunderland in the Capital One Cup final grows closer, one of the notable storylines is considering who could don responsibility of netting from the spot to give their side victory, should the match result in a penalty shootout.
But it's a different story for Manuel Pellegrini's side, who haven't taken part in a competitive shootout since November 2009, in the second leg of their Europa League match against AaB Aalborg. They won 4-3 from the spot but none of City's kick-takers on that day still remain at the Etihad Stadium.
So here's my run-down of today's potential penalty-takers.
|2014 Capital One Cup Final: Possible Penalty-Takers:|
|Yaya Toure||Fabio Borini|
|Sergio Aguero||Craig Gardner|
|Aleksander Kolarov||Ki Sung-Yeung|
|Alvaro Negredo||Adam Johnson|
|Edin Dzeko||Marcos Alonso|
For Manchester City, order of the day will be to remain cool, calm and collected if the match does go to the wire.
Without a competitive shootout in five years, Pellegrini's men could potentially be a little rusty when it comes to the pressure point of scoring from 12 yards in such gruelling circumstances.
However, the Citizens have scored seven times from the spot this season in two different competitions. With three of those goals coming away from the City of Manchester Stadium.
The talismanic Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure could use his experience to calm the nerves of his team-mates by stepping up to the plate first, and if his recent form is anything to go by, he would be an excellent choice by the City coaching staff.
Toure has already scored three penalties this season, after strikes in a 3-2 win at West Brom, during the 6-3 home mauling of Arsenal and also City's 5-1 triumph over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Sergio Aguero, who looks set to return for City after a month-long injury lay-off, has also scored three goals of his own from the spot this season after netting at home against Everton, as well as striking in two consecutive Champions League ties against CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen.
The striker will not only be looking to take his penalty but also strike it with conviction as he battles to remain as the club's first-choice striker, ahead of the impressive Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.
Left-back Aleksandar Kolarov has also slotted from the spot this term, after scoring the winner in the most pressured of circumstances—to win the match away at Bayern Munich.
The 28-year-old Serbian international has been at the club for four years and in that time has made three Wembley visits to the national stadium.
With experience to draw from too, per ESPN FC, Kolarov has also scored in Serbia's 5-1 World Cup qualifying match at home to Macedonia.
Finally, Negredo and Dzeko will be looking to put their names forward for City, should the match remain in the balance after regular time and extra time.
The two strikers, who have scored 23 and 17 goals respectively this season, will be looking to seal the latest piece of silverware for the club.
Negredo, who signed from Sevilla last summer, has yet to win a trophy with City and will be looking to earn his first at Wembley as he continues to stake his claim for a World Cup place with Spain.
Dzeko will be looking to play more of an important role after coming on as a late substitute in last year's FA Cup final defeat by Wigan—entering the fold just moments after seeing his side concede from Ben Watson's last-minute winner.
The Black Cats' penalty-shootout victory against Manchester United in the two-leg semi-final showed off the side's resilience and character under Gus Poyet.
The Uruguayan manager hailed goalkeeper Vito Mannone as the difference between the two sides in the match at Old Trafford, and speaking with Fox Sports, he admitted that his side have the credentials to see off City:
Normally, when you score in the last minute or so you don't expect to then concede within one or two minutes, and then if you miss the first two penalties, you don't expect to win the game either.
How we did it? I think we need to ask Vito Mannone - I think he can personally answer that because he has been getting better and better and he was probably the difference between the two teams.
City are probably the most in-form team in the league, but it is just a game. You need to play well, play your best - to be spot on, practically perfect to win it. But it can happen.
Sunderland Echo sports writer Graeme Anderson tweeted of Mannone's training:
Poyet's side have scored five penalties in all competitions this season, with four different scorers to show that the manager's faith from the spot is well-spread amongst his relegation-fighting squad.
Fabio Borini remains as the club's top penalty marksman this season, after striking during the club's 3-0 win at North-East rivals Newcastle United, as well as hitting home from the white mark in the first-leg win against David Moyes' side.
Meanwhile, Craig Gardner struck the side's first penalty of the season in the 3-1 defeat against Arsenal. However, the 27-year-old missed his chance in the Old Trafford shootout after opting to take the side's first penalty on the night.
Ki Sung-Yueng, who scored a dramatic extra-time goal against Chelsea to see his side progress into the semi-final, struck a penalty earlier in the season in a 1-0 win against Everton. The match saw Tim Howard sent off, before the South Korean star stepped up to win it for his side.
Former Manchester City winger Adam Johnson will be looking to get one over on his former employers as they go to battle at Wembley, after seeing himself slide down the pecking order under then-boss Roberto Mancini.
Johnson's strike from the spot in the side's 4-1 win at Fulham highlighted his ability to deal with pressure. His side romped to victory at Craven Cottage in a good old-fashioned six-pointer.
The winger has plenty of admirers, and he will harbor his own World Cup ambitions as he knows that the world will be watching. So he will be keen to impress if he is to make it onto the plane for Brazil.
Steven Fletcher looks unlikely to be available for Scotland's friendly with Poland, which would also rule him out of the cup final, as tweeted by freelance journalist Alex O'Henley:
Therefore, the fifth penalty responsibility could well fall to former Real Madrid youth player Marcos Alonso, who also scored from the spot in the semi-final victory in Manchester.
Much like Kolarov, the Sunderland wing-back is an attacking player that has the potential to bag a few goals of his own, as seen with his five scored in 35 games for Bolton Wanderers, before opting for a six-month stay in Fiorentina.
The lottery of the penalty shootout can always go either way. With 90,000 fans set to cheer their side on in the stadium and millions set to watch from homes, pubs and other such venues around the globe, the pressure is on for both sides to see their name etched onto the trophy.
A penalty scored—you could be the hero. See it missed, and you could have to live with that for the rest of your life.
You can follow me on Twitter @DanBrett90, for more insight, analysis and predictions from the beautiful game.
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